Don't Let Your Past Limit Your Future

How to Improve Your Chances of Passing a Background Check

April 10, 2017

Almost everybody has taken a background check of some sort—whether applying for a job, an apartment, trying purchase a firearm, applying for a professional license, or for another reason. Millions of Americans are subject to background checks every year.  On Black Friday, over 185,000 background checks are performed for purchases of firearms alone. Approximately 80% of employers conduct background checks, and although the numbers are largely unreported, a large majority of landlords perform background checks on tenants.

What Type Information is in a Background Check?

Background checks have become an important part of life for most Americans, andcriminal record expungement unfortunately at least 65 million Americans will likely fail most employment background checks due to criminal records. However, many Americans are now failing background checks for reasons other than criminal records. Almost half of employers now use your credit report in their hiring process, and 77% of employers reported using social media to screen and recruit potential employees.  In addition, civil court recordsdriving records, your employment history, and educational background all often play an integral role in a background check.

There are many elements to background checks, some of which include:

  • Criminal Records
  • Credit Reports
  • Civil Court Records
  • Social Media and Your “Web Footprint”
  • Driving Records
  • Professional Licenses
  • Educational Background
  • References
  • Checking the Accuracy of Application


What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Passing a Background Check?

Our clients frequently ask what they can do to pass a criminal background check, and while the answer to this question is specific to each person, there are several simple steps that can be taken to improve your chances of passing a background check.

FIRST, you need to consider the different factors above, which we will cover individually below. SECOND, you need to verify that your records are accurate.  Unfortunately, many studies have found serious errors in a significant number of background checks—a 2012 study by the National Consumer Law Center found “Rampant Errors Cost Workers’ Jobs and Skirt Federal Law.”

Criminal records are the most common barrier in passing most types of background checks.

A conviction, or even an arrest, will typically show up in a background check, regardless of how old it is.

While this may seem unfair, in most states your criminal history will remain in the public record until you do something about it.  For example, if you were arrested in Texas, even for an offense which was later dismissed, your arrest record will typically remain in the public record until you take the legal action to expunge it.

To make matters worse, many counties and states make these types of records readily available to the public without your consent or knowledge.

The good news is that many states have a legal remedy to remove these records from the public record, typically preventing them from appearing in a background check.

However, these remedies are not available in every state, and the states that do permit the removal of certain criminal records often have complex laws and procedures which can be difficult to interpret without hiring an attorney.

Many states have laws which permit the expungement, sealing, or setting aside of certain criminal records.  Each state has its own set of laws and unique terminology, however, we will refer to these legal remedies as “expungements” for the sake of simplicity.  Many states now have laws that permit the expungement of many criminal records, however, each state has its own set of qualifications and restrictions, and they can often have different consequences when granted.  For example, in California, an expungement will result in a conviction being dismissed—you may legally state that you have never been convicted of a crime, but the dismissed charges will often appear.  In contrast, an expungement in Texas applies to circumstances where charges were dismissed or there was not a finding of guilt—if granted, the expunged criminal record will be destroyed and treated as though it never happened.

Related Post: What’s the Difference Between an Expungement and Record Sealing?

If you have a criminal record that you would like to expunge, we encourage you to take our confidential, online eligibility test to see if you qualify for an expungement or similar criminal record removal service. These rules can be complex, so we encourage you to contact our experienced attorneys to see if you qualify for an expungement. We are happy to provide a free consultation to let you know what your options are to remove charges from your criminal record. Even if you do not qualify for an expungement, our firm would be happy to discuss what other options you have in cleaning up your criminal record.

If you do not currently qualify for an expungement, do not give up.  Many states are currently in the process of enacting or expanding their expungement laws, and we expect to see this trend continue.  In the meantime, sometimes the best way to deal with a criminal record that cannot be expunged is to be completely forthright an honest with the employer. There will be some employers that have company policies where they cannot hire employees with a criminal record; however, this is not the case with all companies. Because a background check will almost always find a criminal record, honesty is usually the best policy.

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Ray says:

    Yes, I pledged guilty to a bugary charge, in 1982, in another state,
    I’m interested in trying to get it completely wiped off, forget expongenent, I like to get a Pardon, !!!
    I have stayed out of trouble since,
    Got five years probation in lead of a three year sentence, is there any good way to go about it. ????

  2. Don Green says:

    I am guilty of bad checks and I am in desperate need of consultation so that a job offer does not go off the table because of this in another state.

  3. Joe Trimm says:

    I really need some keep. My wife is dying of stage 4 terminal breast cancer. I have always been in the music business and would tour. I am not able to do that anymore because I can’t be too far from her. I’m her caretaker. I don’t want to be on tour and then mess the band up with venues because I need to leave and hurry home. I have a record from my ex wife. I came home and she was with her ex Evan. I got into it with him and kicked her out. She abt to a homeless shelter and they said the only way they could keep her there is if she was a victim of abuse. So two weeks later she went to the cops saying she we abused. She still has red marks on her that are not bruises they seriously looked like she was just slapped to make it red. Anyways I tried to fight it and the day we went to court the district attorney said they could not do it that day and moved it to the next day. I was to go on tour the very next day early in the morning to start a month tour. I had obligations and contacts. I couldn’t afford to mess it up. I told them that and they said all they could do is lower the charges and give me probation. They said other than that I have to be there the next day. So I had no choice. I took it and went on tour. I did ask they asked and finished it. I forget what all the charges are now. The other thing I have is my wife’s daughter stole some of my wife’s meds a few years ago. I saw it and I chased her out the door and tried to take them from her hand. She had known about my charges with my ex. Her exact words were you don’t want another case. Let me go. I said no give be your mother’s meds. I grabbed then went back in and locked the door. I thought she went home. She didn’t. She called the cops saying I hurt her. I went and met with the judge in his chambers and spoke to him. He knows her from being in truant court and yelling at him. He said I had no worries and he would take care of it. It still shows as an arrest I believe. I need those to go away so I can get a job. We are going to lose our home and everything. We have 2 kids that live here. I am so worried. I can’t get a decent job because of this. I badly need one. I need to pay for her to get medical treatment and pay bills. I don’t want to lose her especially because I can’t afford her medical treatment and can’t afford to take her to M.D. Anderson to get help and great treatment. Please I beg you. Is there anything I can do so that I can get these off so I can pass a background check. Please I beg you, please help me PLEASE! Thank you for your help.
    Joe Trimm

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